Appfrica has a great infographic that looks at the number of Earth's dead humans and the causes of their deaths, and creates comparisons between the population of the dead and that of the living.
"How many people have ever lived?" The numbers in this piece are highly speculative but are as accurate as modern science allows. It's widely accepted that prior to 2002 there had been somewhere between 106 and 140 billion homo sapiens born to the world.
One interesting fact he digs up: There are more people currently alive in Asia, Africa and Latin America than the total number of people who died—anywhere, and for any reason—during the entire 20th century.
Appfrica: Population of the Dead
(Thanks, Maria Popova!)
As the year draws to a close, I find myself turning back to 2009 and to the highlights and lowlights of the year. For instance, the dumbest thing I heard anyone say all year: at the Battle of Ideas in London, I sat in on a panel
on whether unlimited economic growth was plausible or desirable. On the pro side there was a man who argued:
1. The Bible gives man dominion over all the beasts and land and so forth
2. The world's per-capita GDP works out to about GBP5,000, which means that if we stop growing now and then redistribute things fairly, every human being will have to live on a mere £5 grand a year.
Hardly a day goes by that I am not freshly amazed by how dumb this presentation was. First of all, for a Biblical literalist, this guy was in serious trouble. He was working on a Saturday! He was wearing polycotton blends! He was clean-shaven! Talk about cherry-picking your scripture.
As to 2., man, how innumerate can you get? You don't find out what the average standard of living is by adding up all the world's GDP and dividing by 6.7 billion -- unless you adjust for relative purchasing power (five thousand pounds goes a lot further in Burkina Faso than it does in Knightsbridge) all you get is a totally meaningless number.
I'm sure there were dumber things said this year, but this was the stupidest utterance that took place in my hearing, by a wide margin.